A how-to guide on being the best support system you can for your friends or family during their postpartum journey. What to bring, how to help, and how to be there for your friends during this vulnerable stage in their life.
First thing's first, if you haven't already checked out the episode, head on over to The Lunita Podcast and give Season 3 Episode 2: So your Friends Had a Baby a listen. Remember to subscribe to the Podcast, leave us a review if you like the show, and give us a follow on Instagram for updates and conversations with the community.
We have all been there. Your friend, or a couple you consider equally close friends, invites you over to their place to meet their new baby for the first time. You're not sure what to bring, how to help, or what they need. It can be awkward, emotional, frustrating (depending on how often this happens to you) and certainly uncomfortable. Especially if you don't have much experience with babies.
Remember that just because you feel uncomfortable about being invited or unsure of how this first introduction will go, doesn't mean you shouldn't go. Your friends are inviting you to meet the newest member of their family, because on some level, they consider you family as well. No parents just invite everyone over, especially not during these times.
More often than not, a thoughtful conversation occurs between parents when the question is posed, "Who do we want to share this tender, vulnerable, exciting time with?"
Your friends are inviting you to view them in a new, much more raw and sensitive place. This within itself is quite an honor, especially if you are being asked to visit a young newborn. So, perhaps re-framing this invitation can help you feel more committed, excited and determined to provide love, friendship and support.
So, now that you have chosen to accept the invitation, this poses the questions, "WTF do I bring? How can I be of help? What do they need?"
WTF do I bring?
This really varies on what type of person you are. Are you the type of friend that rolls up to Friends-giving with a thoughtless, $4 bottle of Chateau Diana from the deli and some smashed up dinner rolls? Are you the type of friend that shows up with a homemade side dish or two? Or are you the type of friend that rolls up empty handed? Most likely, if you're the latter, then you're not getting invited to meet a new baby, so maybe check yourself.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to be a giving and gracious guest. Your parent friends are certainly not expecting you to buy them a crib or a fancy, bougie stroller. If they are, they need to check THEMselves.
You can always do what is easiest and ASK your friends what they need. Most parents are too tired and stressed to have much of a filter, so they will just tell you. We will keep a running list on our fridge of everything we were out of and just ask friends to bring a few things off that list. Whether our friends brought us toilet paper, toothpaste, a bag of lemons, or a few frozen pizzas, we were / are always most grateful for simply being considered.
If your friends give you a list of things, commit to what you can and be honest about it. If you can't afford to bring them three cases of lacroix because you don't get paid for another week and funds are tight, just say that and bring one case. The point is do your best to keep communication open, people always appreciate honesty, no matter what.
If you want to bring more than whats being asked of you, bravo, you f**king rock and are a truly awesome and thoughtful friend. Some easy, affordable, gifts to bring should include a combination of stuff your friends need and things for the baby.
Some Suggestions from Lunita:
For the Parent(s):
Bring your energy and time so you can let them take a nap/ shower/ rest. This is truly the best gift as it requires no money on your part and speaks volumes about your own ability to support others.
Caffeine of their choice is always appreciated. A little energy boost goes a long way, and it's likely that they barely have the time to leave the house and get themselves a nice cup of joe.
Their favorite bathing products. Anything to encourage them to pamper themselves is always a lovely choice.
Something super comfy. Never underestimate the power of a good, thick pair of socks or a soft hoodie.
Something to assist with pain, because trust that whether it is being communicated or not both parents are in a shit load of pain (arnica, tylenol, or a cbd bath bomb if they get down like that).
Specifically for Birthing Parent (if you know what type of birth they had, if not, DON'T ask!):
A peri bottle for more comfortable urination
Padsicles, aka huge OB pads soaked in witchhazel and then placed in the freezer, gauze for keeping c-section incision properly bandaged
Depends (yea, the adult diapers) in the right size. They are great for the pospartum period. Yes they are kind of embarrassing, and yes, they are a lifesaver.
Hydration with lots of electrolytes (Gatorade, Coconut water, etc.)
Foods specific for postpartum recovery
For the Baby (any of these are cool, but please, don't bring them all):
A baby book (board books are best please, they are cheaper and more difficult for a curious baby to rip to shreds). Lunita suggests any of these.
A lovie or baby blanket. They also double as burp cloths in a pinch!
Anything left on the baby registry that wasn't purchased! This one is clutch and the easiest to figure out.
Dr. Browns anti-colic bottle. They will THANK YOU. This was a GAME-CHANGER in the Lunita household.
A bottle of Gripe Water (if you know, you know).
Extra diapers in the correct size. You can never have enough.
Extra Wipes. If you're not sure what brand to go with, Water Wipes is your safest bet.
*If baby is formula fed, another jug of the preferred formula is awesome, but formula can be pricey, so do not feel obligated -- no parent will blame you.
How Can I be of Help ?
Let's be clear, if you are there at all and willing to do more to just sit around, then you are useful. Do not go to a friends home with a new baby and expect there to be food, drinks, relaxation. There is none for the parents, so why the f**k should there be any for you?
First thing's first, whenever you get into a friends home with small children, wash your damn hands... thoroughly. Also, if the parents ask you to remove your shoes, or wear a doctor's mask, etc., just do it. The baby's health is more important than your personal views on the matter.
Now, this next one is real important so lean in close, make sure you are there on a day where you are at your best, so you can be of help -- not when you are hungover, not stoned out of your mind, not after a long day of work where you are your grumpiest self.
Show up bright-eyed, energized and in the mood to help. All new parents are exhausted as hell and truly in deep shit. Allow them to take a rest, be it a bath / shower, a nap or just to lay down and read for an hour. It's a HUGE help.
Make sure you have time to offer them this as well. Your friend just might fall asleep for four hours, and it's not cool to wake anyone up when they are sleeping, especially if they are sleep deprived.
Bringing food will always gain you huge props as well, but it's often best to show up with food that is ready to either be eaten or tossed in the fridge / freezer. No one wants you "chef-ing" it up in their kitchen where you most likely will be more of a pain in the ass then you've intended to be (dirty dishes are just another chore for a parent).
If you can't cook, buy something from a restaurant they like or go no nuts at a hot bar. If that's too much work, which we totally get, give them a gift certificate to Freshdirect or Blue Apron so they can get their own groceries.
If food isn't your thing, then maybe be down to do a load of laundry (trust us, there will be laundry that needs done), clean the kitchen, do a some dishes, or sweep the floor.
If they have pets, take their dog for a walk or clean the litter box. They're tired of cleaning up someone else's sh*t, so any or if they have older children take them out for an afternoon to a movie or the park or a museum. Anything that is gonna ware older children out is also a bonus.
The most simple way to be of help is to just evaluate the situation. You walk into your friend's apartment, and it smells like dirty diapers, and there is sh*t everywhere, you can be of help just by just asking, "How can i be of help?"
Basically, be willing to listen more than talking about yourself. In this delicate stage, the focus should be on the parents, not you and you're hot tinder date (no matter how hot and steamy the date was).
What Do they NEED?
Ultimately, what your friends need is for you to be a little more attentive, aware and supportive. They still love you and want to include you on this new chapter of their life, but for a few months, they may not be able to be there for you as much as you would like. They will come back around when they gain a new sense of normalcy.
In the meantime, an occasional checkup via text, a couple visits where you provide some help, and some compassion can make all the difference in the world.
Your friends need people who understand how hard life is for them, even if you may not be able to relate. They need all the love they can get and a few extra hours of sleep. Remember this phase is temporary, and in no time, you will have your old friend, at least partially, back.
To put it very frankly, while having a baby is a wonderful gift, those first few months really suck. They are filled with sleepless nights, high highs and low lows. When things get tough, no matter what the circumstances are, it's friends with compassion and supportive qualities we all want to lean on.
You don't need to be a postpartum doula or a parent to be helpful, and you certainly don't need to spend a lot of money to show your support either. Have realistic expectations of what your visits post-baby will be like with your friend, do not take it personal if you are not invited, and provide some sympathy and a few thoughtful gifts that can make their life a little bit easier. Believe me, it can make all the difference in the world, not only for your friends, but it can shape the quality of your friendship moving forward.
And lastly, please remember, this is a very big deal for those new parents in your life, and after all, wouldn't you want the same for yourself?
Reach out to us on Instagram with any other tips on what helped you with your postpartum journey, or to share how you have helped support a loved one with a new kid!
Wishing you all love, health, and happiness!